The First Nation about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., declared an emergency on Dec. 28 due to a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 201 of its 400 members.
There were 47 active cases as of Wednesday, according to Hajdu, and the numbers are “trending in the right direction.”
“This means families and individuals are becoming able to resume their daily activities and roles,” she said.
Hajdu said that dozens of personnel have been deployed from Indigenous Services to the community, including from other First Nations communities, and she is “cautiously optimistic” of recovery.
Nevertheless, the government’s response has received criticism from the First Nation.
Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin said Wednesday he is “disappointed” in the response. The community initially requested on Jan. 3 for 40 military personnel to help with basic tasks such as chopping and hauling firewood as many in the community isolated, but the request was first passed by the Ontario government then taken up Jan. 6.
Three army rangers were dispatched two days later to assess the community’s needs, and as of Wednesday, five rangers are in the community.
“We are disappointed with Canada’s response,” said Kamenawatamin.
“Our community was anxiously waiting for help, and we were comforted by the thought that Canada would step in to provide us with much-needed physical and moral support. In the end, however, this help has been minimal.”
“This situation and the promises made by Canada to Bearskin Lake First Nation only serve as another example of a long history of dishonesty and neglect from Canadian governments,” the First Nation said in a statement Wednesday.
Hajdu said Thursday when asked how the government will improve its response that she is “frustrated” and then listed the measures that have been taken.
“I would say, honestly, I’m frustrated as well, because, of course, I’ve been in touch with leadership,” she said. “I’ve reiterated that there is an open line of communication with me personally. The chief has my cellphone number.
“Obviously, we are going to continue to be there.”
— with files from Global News’ David Akin and Amanda Connolly
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